AU. When Sirius and Remus go looking for Peter Pettigrew, they make a wrong turn and someone else finds him first. Eight years later, Sirius owns a book store and Remus manages it for him. When Harry stumbles into the store and they find out the truth, they decide it's time to be Stealing Harry. (SB/RL slash relationship in later chapters.)
It was fully a week before Harry got another opportunity to go near Sandust Books, and even then he couldn't get away from Aunt Petunia -- she was taking Dudley to get his hair cut, and made Harry
sit next to her the whole time. He gazed longingly across the street at the dusty-windowed bookstore and the glossy black dog who was delightedly eating ice cream off of the fingers of a couple of
children. Moony emerged and seated himself on the broad front step, obviously basking in the late-afternoon sunlight; he noticed Harry and reached out to nudge Padfoot, pointing and waving. Harry
very carefully waved back.
Padfoot bounded up and dashed across the street, wriggling with excitement, but stopped himself at the last minute from putting his paws up on the window when he noticed Aunt Petunia. His lips pulled back, teeth showing. Harry grinned and made a shushing gesture; Padfoot backed away, tail between legs, and trotted dejectedly back to Moony, who rubbed behind his ears and made a scowl of disappointment.
Harry watched as people came up to talk to Moony and pet Padfoot; children came and went and Moony occasionally followed a customer inside to help them find books.
Behind him, Dudley wailed in the chair that he didn't want to get his hair cut, that he wouldn't hold still, and that they were going to cut his ears and head and, though this did not seem logical to Harry, his nose. But on the other side of the glass, across the narrow street, Moony made faces at him and Padfoot did silly doggy acrobatics.
Harry decided he had to go back to the bookshop. And there was only one way he was ever going to.
He'd have to talk to Mr. Black, who owned the shop.
He resolved to do it that day, but three days later he still hadn't had his chance. He had to do it when Aunt Petunia wouldn't be watching, and when Dudley wouldn't follow him, and when Mr. Black was at home.
So Harry watched, and waited, and invented his excuse, and finally, after school one day, he got his chance. Aunt Petunia was having tea with one of her friends, and Dudley was upstairs playing video games. Harry heard the motorbike roll down the street, heard it cut off and thought he could even hear the faint sounds of the garage being opened.
He very quietly put on his coat, tucked the book into the pocket again, and crept out the back door. He circled around the house, down the street, and behind a hedge. He peered through the branches at Mr. Black, who had rolled his motorbike into the garage and was lying underneath it, tinkering with something.
He glanced around, made his decision, and dashed madly across the street, ducking behind the edge of the garage. Mr. Black, hearing his footsteps, slid out from under the bike and propped himself up on his elbows. Harry dashed inside the garage and hid himself to one side of a tool rack.
When Mr. Black saw Harry, he blinked and turned pale.
"Hello," Harry said, quickly. "Do you own the bookstore?"
Mr. Black continued to stare at him, open-mouthed.
"Only I'm a...I'm a friend of Moony and Padfoot and they gave me this book -- " Harry held out the book, " -- and I really liked it but it says there're a bunch of others and I wanted to see if I gave this one back if maybe Padfoot would let me have another one...but I can't go to the bookshop, see, because my aunt won't let me...and she says you own it..."
He trailed off. Mr. Black's unblinking stare was beginning to make him anxious.
"No, no no...stay right there," Mr. Black said. He pushed himself to his feet gracefully and backed away -- eyes never leaving Harry's face -- until he was standing next to a sink. Slowly he turned to wash his hands and wipe the grease off his fingers. When he finally turned back, Harry was trembling with nervousness.
"Don't be afraid," the tall man said, gently. He walked forward again and knelt to take the book from Harry's hands.
"I own the bookshop," he said. He thumbed through the book. "You read the whole thing?"
"It was brilliant," Harry answered. Mr. Black looked up sharply, and Harry wondered if he'd said something wrong. "Padfoot said I could have it," he added.
"Padfoot doesn't talk."
"Yes he does. I bet you anything he does. Cos Moony's a magician," Harry added. Mr. Black smiled.
"My name is Sirius Black," he said. "Like the star. You can call me Sirius."
"That's a funny name."
"I suppose so," Sirius said, turning the book in his hands. "You should keep this, Harry. Padfoot gave it to you. I'll give you the next one, if you like."
"I can't anyway," Harry said gloomily. "Aunt Petunia almost found it. If she gets hold of it she'll wreck it, and I'll get Moony and Padfoot in trouble."
"Ah, I see," Sirius said gravely. Something in his look reminded Harry of Padfoot's sober doggy gaze. "Well. In that case, I'll keep it safe for you."
"So...does Moony work for you?" Harry asked, as Sirius put the book in his back pocket.
"In a manner of speaking. I own the shop, and he runs it, so that I don't have to."
"Are you a magician too?"
"No, I'm a talking dog."
Harry scowled. Sirius grinned.
"As for being a magician..."
Both of them looked up. Harry beamed.
"Moony!" he said, excitedly, but the brown-haired man, standing in the drive, was glaring at Sirius.
"What do you think you're doing?" he demanded.
"Lad wanted to return the book," Sirius answered.
"Where's Padfoot?" Harry asked, looking around for the big black dog.
"Padfoot's in the doghouse," Moony answered. Sirius grinned.
"Harry thinks that The Magician's Nephew was brilliant, and he wants the next in the series," he said, standing and touselling Harry's hair. His hand was big enough to cover the whole top of Harry's head.
"Harry, you run along back to your aunt and uncle before they catch you," Moony said. Harry's disappointment must have showed on his face, because the older man sighed.
"I don't want you getting into trouble," he said. "I'm not mad at you, Harry, I'm mad at Sirius. Go on, run on, and I'll make sure you get your book, all right?"
Harry, still not understanding what was going on, nodded, and ran down the drive, nearly tripping on the sidewalk. As he left, he heard Moony say to Sirius, "You managed to restrain yourself, I see."
"I had to."
"You can't just talk to him about magic like that, he's only eight years old."
And he thought he heard Sirius reply, "Well, he's got to find out sooner or later, and he thinks you're a magician, Remus."
Then Uncle Vernon's car roared by, and Harry ran to be home in time for dinner. It wouldn't do to be late -- there would be Questions, and then the whole thing might come out.
"You can't send him that one, Moony, he's a kid."
"Sirius, this book was written for kids. You're just upset because I'm sending him your copy."
"Well, it's mine!"
"He'll give it back, don't worry."
"He's a kid. He'll spill something on it."
"You own a bookstore. It's not as if this is the only copy of the book in existence. Don't you want your godson to read it?"
"Well, that's settled then."
"I wanted to read it to him. I was saving it in case."
"Once he turns eleven you can visit him at Hogwarts and read to him all you like."
"He'll be too old, then."
"He's nearly too old now."
"I hate the Dursleys."
"The Dursleys protect him."
"Hell of a job they do of it. You know he goes about in The Piglet's castoffs, don't you?"
"His name is Dudley."
"I don't care."
"My, we are petulant this afternoon, aren't we?"
"It's not right."
"Listen, this is dangerous enough as it is. I know Moody yelled at you once already. If we get caught sending him things -- "
"What? What exactly are they going to do to us? I'd like to know. They can't lock us up for wanting to look after the boy. It's not a crime, you know."
"Dumbledore has friends at the Ministry. Arthur Weasley could make life really miserable for us."
"Arthur Weasley? You must be joking. The man doesn't swat flies, let alone make trouble for other people."
"Well, Sirius, you have a lot less to hide than I do, don't you?"
"Dumbledore wouldn't do that. He wouldn't, would he?"
"The point is, we're endangering Harry as well. If he leaves the Dursleys, he'll be a lot harder to protect."
"Fine. Fine, fine. I'll keep quiet. But if he comes to talk to me again I'm not going to throw him out of my garage."
Harry waited patiently for the rest of the week, wondering how Moony would get the book to him. He didn't have another chance to nip down and talk to Mr. Bla -- to Sirius -- though he kept a careful eye on the house. The only people who visited Sirius were Moony, once, and an old man with a peg-leg and a bowler hat tipped low over one eye.
He was sitting out in the backyard, hiding from Dudley, when the book arrived. He'd been behind a rosebush, studying history, and a package literally fell into his lap.
He looked up. A tawny, vicious-looking owl sat above him, clicking its beak.
He tore open the brown-wrapped package. Another yellow-covered book fell out, and a battered second book, and a piece of strange cream-coloured paper.
When you're done with the books, bring them back to Sirius.
PS: If you want to write back, write on this paper and give it to the owl. He's trained to take letters for me.
There was an inky pawprint, too.
Harry excitedly pulled out his pencil and wrote a thank-you note and a promise not to tell. The owl accepted it, nipped him on the finger, and flew off.
Harry turned over the books in his hands, grinning. Another one by C.S. Lewis -- The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe -- as well as one called Truckers, by a man named Pratchett.
It took Harry three nights and two lunch periods at school to finish the second Narnia book; it wasn't as interesting as the last one. He went through Truckers almost as fast as he had The Magician's Nephew, and then -- since he didn't know when he'd get to return the books -- he read it again.
Sirius spent almost the entire next Saturday with the garage open, pretending to work on his motorbike, but Harry was trapped inside helping Aunt Petunia clean, and couldn't get away.
On Monday, however, something brilliant happened.
Just before lunch, Harry happened to glance up from his math problems, and saw a blur of black through the window. Sitting on the schoolyard grass was Padfoot, tongue lolling, ears perked towards the classroom. Harry's world brightened. Padfoot must be here to see him. Padfoot had come all the way from Sandust Books to see him, Harry Potter.
It seemed to take forever for the bell to ring; Harry gathered up his backpack (threadbare, falling apart, and covered with insane cartoon characters -- it had been Dudley's) and ran outside to throw his arms around Padfoot's neck. The dog whined with excitement. Harry threw himself down in the grass and pulled a somewhat smashed ham sandwich out of his pocket, offering half to Padfoot, who took it with grace and shredded it before devouring it.
"I saw Moony again. He gave me two new books. Did you pick them out?" Harry asked. Padfoot, mouth full of ham sandwich, whined. "I thought so. I met Sirius too. He said you couldn't talk, but I bet you can. You can around me, you know. I've never told."
Harry waited, entirely expecting that Padfoot would open his mouth to tell a joke, but instead he saw that the dog was looking past him.
Dudley and his gang.
"Look, ickle Harrykins has a new best friend," Dudley said, stopping to put his hands on his hips. "Better make sure you don't give him fleas, Harry."
"Shut up, Dudley," Harry answered. There was a soft growl from Padfoot.
"Ooooh, what're you gonna do, sic a big stupid mutt on me?"
"He's not stupid," Harry answered. "He's the smartest dog ever, like movie dogs."
"He looks dumb to me," said one of the other boys.
Padfoot, very slowly, rose from his reclining position. Standing, he was as tall as Dudley. His lips were drawn back over sharp white teeth.
"Nyah, big dumb dog," Dudley said, throwing a wad of paper at him. Padfoot didn't even flinch, didn't track the paper with his eyes; instead he lunged for Dudley, and caught him by the waistband, ripping his trousers apart before flinging the boy to the ground.
"I'll tell!" Dudley screamed, and fled, the other boys already having deserted him. Padfoot snorted, and trotted back to Harry.
"You should go," Harry said. "You'll get in trouble."
Padfoot whined and nudged him with his great doggy head.
"Go on, go find Moony before a teacher shows up," Harry said. "Go on, Padfoot."
The big black dog huffed, but turned and ambled away reluctantly.
Harry faced the schoolyard again and composed himself to tell a lie about a stray mutt wandering through.
"That's it. That is the ultimate end."
Remus looked up from the counter of Sandust Books. It was late afternoon, a time when business was always at a low ebb; the only people in the store were the Baker brothers, ages five and two respectively, whose mother was next door shopping for shoes.
"Surely not," he said. "I was certain that the sun had at least another few billion years before the ultimate end. And you know the universe might go on quite a bit longer after that, even."
"Do you know where I was at lunch, Moony?"
"Yes, getting us into trouble," Remus replied, making a note in a ledger. "And then I have it on good report you went down to Diagon Alley and sulked for hours on end. Listen, we could have Pratchett in for a signing on the twelfth, but it's a full moon so you'd have to handle everything and I know you hate that."
"I went to his school. I waited for him to come out. I was going to spend lunch sharing his sandwich and having my ears skritched," Sirius stormed.
"You were also going to pick up the books from him. I see you got distracted."
"The Piglet won't even let the poor lad alone when he's just sitting on the grass minding his own business. I mean really. And have you seen how he looks in those old clothes? No wonder he hasn't got any school friends."
Remus looked up. "Dudley bothers him at school?"
"Not today," Sirius said, a trifle smugly. "I broke his trousers."
"Well. Ripped 'em. Reckon that'll show him. Wouldn't mind seeing that one sing falsetto if you get my drift."
Remus took his glasses off and folded them carefully. "Sirius, getting your drift is not difficult. It's really more of a projectile than a drift. You attacked Dudley Dursley?"
"He was picking on Harry!"
"We are in so much trouble," Remus murmured.
"No, I'll tell you who's in trouble. Petunia Dursley is in trouble. Vernon Dursley is in trouble. Dudley Dursley is in for a world of trouble as soon as I can arrange a pack of wild dogs to rend him limb from limb. We? We are not in trouble. We are going to storm that house and -- "
Sirius subsided, when Remus indicated the two small boys in the corner, watching him rave.
"I mean it this time," Sirius continued, in a lower voice. "He's getting old enough that it's starting to affect him. I'm not going to stand for it. I'm his godfather. I have a right to make sure the boy's happy."
"I think all we can hope for is that he's not dead," Remus murmured softly. "He's got to stay with his family. Dumbledore said so."
"I'm his family!"
"Not his blood."
"You're his blood!"
Remus lifted an eyebrow. "I'm a second-cousin of James' mother, once removed. There's a difference."
"James and Lily would be furious if they knew -- "
" -- but they don't know, Sirius, because James and Lily are dead," Remus snapped. There was a gasp from behind them, and Sirius whirled.
"Harry," the men said in unison.
Harry Potter was standing by one of the bookshelves, clutching his backpack in his hands, staring wide-eyed at them.
"How long have you been there?" Sirius demanded.
"Where's your aunt?" Remus said, cutting him off.
"We just...she wanted to buy...Dudley...new trousers..." Harry said, eyes still wide as saucers, staring at Sirius. "I..."
He let his backpack fall, and Sirius saw he was holding the books they'd sent him.
"I came to give back the books," he said, in a small voice. Sirius put out his hand to accept them, and Harry flinched back.
"You were talking about my parents," he whispered.
Sirius glanced at Remus, who laid down his pen and rubbed his eyes. Finally, he sighed.
"Yes, Harry, we were," he answered.
"You knew my parents," Harry said.
"Yes," Remus continued. Sirius seemed dumbfounded.
"You said you're my godfather," Harry continued, as if processing the information. Sirius made a strangled noise.
"Do you remember your parents at all, Harry?" Remus asked gently. Harry shook his head.
"Got a picture of them in my cupboard..." he said, eyes never leaving Sirius' face.
"In your bedroom?"
"Where I sleep," Harry said helpfully. Remus saw Sirius' fists clench.
Just then there was a shriek from next door, Aunt Petunia calling his name, and Harry gathered up his backpack and fled, dropping the books where he'd stood. They watched him go.
"Did you hear that, Moony?" Sirius said hoarsely.
"Well." Remus closed his notebook and tossed it on the counter. "Might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, as my dad used to say."
"What the hell has -- "
"I think we ought to pay the Dursleys a visit tomorrow afternoon."
Sirius glanced at him. There was something strange in Remus' eyes, something he didn't think he'd ever seen before. A mixture of pity and rage that perfectly echoed what he himself was feeling.
"I'm leaving in two days for India," Remus continued. "Apparently there's a cult in one of the northeastern provinces that worships the rat. That sort of thing would be very attractive to Peter, you know, and I think he may have gone to ground there. But I see no reason not to put the fear of God, not to mention Moony and Padfoot, into the Dursleys before I leave." He pointed at Sirius. "You will stay very quiet, and look menacing, and let me do the talking."
"Can I menace them? Physically?"
"If you behave yourself I might let you give Dudley a clip round the ear."